SAN FRANCISCO -- The best response to the Chicago Cubs signing Manny Ramirez to be a player/coach for their Triple-A Iowa team may have come from the man he’s meant to mentor the most: top prospect Javier Baez.
"He's a great hitter, and we'll see what happens," Baez told the Des Moines Register.
It’s hard to argue with the wait-and-see approach considering the move is so outside the box in the first place. How can anyone have a definitive opinion on something like this within 24 hours of the announcement? Have you spent a lot of time wondering if Ramirez would be a good coach or not? More important, we have to see this version of Ramirez, not the one that brought controversy with him wherever he went.
Until recently at least.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, who experienced playing with Ramirez while at Triple-A Round Rock, said Monday before the Cubs played the Giants. “The first day he got (to Texas) he was really interacting with everybody.”
Ramirez spent 30 games in the Texas Rangers organization last season, and Olt saw a different guy than his reputation. Ramirez was simply all about hitting -- and helping.
“He came out of the car, he had a bat in his hands,” Olt recalled. “Everywhere he went he had a bat in his hands. He watched my film for like five seconds and he goes ‘You’re late’. I was like ‘Yeah, you’re right. I can’t figure out how to get on time.’ He helped me.”
That’s testimony from a current major leaguer who interacted with Ramirez as recently as last season. How can you not give him a chance after hearing that?
“He was showing me what pitchers are trying to do.” Olt said. “That’s always been a struggle for me. He was great to everybody.”
“It should be interesting,” he said. “I’m sure he’s in a place that he wants to share his game and coach people. I’ll listen. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.”
Olt recalled Ramirez taking players under his wing -- in a good way.
“I remember him taking (Yangervis) Solarte and helping him out,” Olt said. “He’s playing well for the Yankees now. He took a lot of guys under his wing. Took them out to dinner and stuff. It wasn’t just at the field.”
Everyone is bound to have an opinion on Ramirez coming to the Cubs. After all, he was a polarizing figure in several stops of his career while also taking performance enhancing drugs. But to think the Cubs would risk their top prospect being around a bad influence is a big stretch. That doesn’t mean they're right -- or wrong. In this case, passing early judgment would be the big mistake. Let’s see how it plays out.
“He’s a totally different guy from what I hear,” Kalish said. “I’ve always thought he was a great guy.”
Olt added: “I loved having him around.”
Maybe Baez will say the same thing.